Schools

All participating schools were public schools, both the preprimary and the primary ones. This program was implemented in all Cyprus districts: Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaka, Famagusta and Paphos.  Approximately 140 – 450 children from each school participated in the program, 15 – 38 educators and the school principals and deputies. Three hundred and twenty one parents from all schools participated in the program. Other participants were the Ministry of Education and Culture, the schools’ inspectors who were regularly informed about the progress of the program and facilitated the implementation process, and the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute with the Environmental Education Unit which was responsible for the school guidance, the training of the teachers and the school administration, as well as the information of the communities. In all cases, the participants had to overcome various conflicts and obstacles. For example, while the school administrations appeared eager to participate and support the program, they were worried about the lack of time, access to economic resources, and were limited by the curriculum load and other potential disruptions that might be caused due to the transfer of the teaching learning process outdoors. Similarly the educators were also enthusiastic about the program but they needed to overcome their insecurities about restructuring the teaching and learning process, and transferring it out doors in collaboration with the parents and other actors. Finally in order to participate in the program, parents had to overcome the prevailing view of a traditional school and become aware of schools’ additional roles and their personal role for the achievement of the schools efforts.

Participation in the program was optional and open to all public schools therefore participants were from all districts and therefore had (a) different demographic profiles (socioeconomic background of the students families, such as schools with parents of high educational level and income on one hand and schools where students were mainly immigrants and workers), (b) different school building infrastructure (some schools were new with modern infrastructure, laboratories for science education, for ICT, special classrooms for music, stage theatre, using solar panels for energy, outdoor classes, school gardens whereas other school lacked basic infrastructure, laboratories and even lacked teaching rooms for which they used prefabricated constructions as temporary solutions. Similarly the students achievement level varied, with some schools’ achievement being high whereas in other schools it was low, combined with lack of discipline and behavioural problems, (c) different involvement and approach of environmental and sustainability issues (participation in different environmental education programs, environmental initiatives) and collaborations with other schools in Cyprus and elsewhere. There were schools for example, which had extensive experience with environmental education programs and collaborations with schools abroad within Comenius programs where they studied common environmental issues. Other schools had extremely limited experience with EE or ESD due to other priorities of by the school (e.g. e.g. controlling delinquency, or emphasizing health education and multicultural education). The school was the key player for establishing the collaboration with the community. School would take the initiative for identifying the issue of study, mobilising and engaging the community and other collaborators for the program and through the collaboration designing and developing all program phases. For the foundation of the collaboration with the community, each partner within the school had a clearly defined role. E.g. the school administration was responsible for supporting the efforts for opening the school to the community, contacting the various agents and ensuring funding and resources. The educators had to organise the framework and the process of the collaboration and parents were expected to participate with and support these processes.

Each schools vision concerning ESD was related to their special circumstances, needs and unique features. Nevertheless the objective sought was the same for all cases: Each school, according to its own potential and issue of focus, was expected to collaborate with all its partners and become an organisation which would promote activities and actions leading to the improvement of the quality of life in school and the community. Progressively, in the long term, the collaboration would lead to conditions of environmental, social and economic sustainability for the community.

For example the vision for the 8th Primary school in Limassol, (“adoption of a Park”) was to upgrade the quality of the local settings by creating a park of native plant species. The responsibility of the creation, the conservation and maintenance of the park would be shared between the school, the local authorities, and the local habitants. The park would serve as a learning environment, as well as an environment of collective effort and action seeking to stress the importance of individual and shared responsibility for improving the community’s quality of life within sustainable development.

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